Word of the Day: Unique

Unique adjective


Oxford dictionary:

  • being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else:
    • Everyone has a unique set of fingerprints
    • This situation was unique in the British economy
  • (unique to) belonging or connected to (one particular person, place, or thing):
    • a style of architecture that is unique to Portugal

Other forms:

uniquely adverb
uniqueness noun

First of all, I would like to thank Tiarel Toastmasters Club for giving me the opportunity to do a language evaluation at their club on 26 January 2013. It is always an honour to do language evaluation. The best part is that I get to learn more about a word. I tried to replicate what I did in a previous language evaluation, introducing a word that has a similar meaning to another in the English language. From there, I’ll point out the differences between the words.

Unique vs Special

If we were to refer to the Oxford dictionary, Special has the following meanings:

  • better, greater or otherwise, different from what is usual
  • belonging specifically to a particular person or place

The difference between unique and special is in the number of items which are similar to the one being described. When you describe something as special, it is possible that another object in question may possess the same qualities as the one you were describing. However, when you describe something as unique, that object is the one and only of such in the world.

Non-Gradable Adjective

If we look at the adjective, ‘cold’, we can describe different levels of “coldness” by coupling it with another adverb such as ‘very cold’, ‘fairly cold’, and ‘slightly cold’.

Unique, on the other hand, is a non-gradable adjective. It reflects a state something is in. We are unable to describe how unique something is as that object is the one and only. However, we can to use certain non-grading adverbs to describe unique such as ‘absolutely unique’ (to emphasise a point), ‘nearly unique’ (and therefore it’s not unique) or ‘in some aspects unique’.

Can we use the term “very unique”?

With that being said, can we describe something as ‘very unique’? My take is that it’s a no and yes.

In formal situations, ‘unique’ should retained its unique meaning. By describing something as ‘very unique’ is a wrong usage of the word and in my opinion, should not be encouraged.

However, I do personally feel that colloquialism (at least in the South-East Asia region) has made allowance for someone to use the word ‘unique’ as a sensing or feeling. As with many words of feelings, they come in different colours and flavours. ‘Very unique’ could have been used to give more punch versus the description, ‘very special’. It don’t really matter in this case as what matters more is whether you have put your point across to the person you are talking to.

Word of the Day: Courage

cour·age noun

Br ˈkʌrɪdʒ      Am ˈkᴈːrɪdʒ


Macmillan Dictionary

the ability to do something that you know is right or good, even though it is dangerous, frightening, or very difficult

Cambridge International Dictionary of English

the ability to control fear and to deal with danger, pain, uncertainty, etc…

Other forms:

courageous adjective

courageously adverb

I Am Daring Greatly

Highly inspired by Brené Brown‘s work on vulnerability, I introduced the word Courage at my maiden language evaluation at Bishan Toastmasters Club on 24 Nov 2012. Of course, Brené Brown had her own definition on courage, I took mine from the dictionary.

Bravery vs Courage

We often use these two words interchangeably but there is actually a great difference between the two. It is this difference why we often say “pluck up your courage” rather than “pluck up your bravery“. It is probably this difference Brené Brown uses the word courage rather than bravery to explain vulnerability.

In bravery, we are fearless about what we do. We often show no fear in protecting what we love and what we feel is correct. Hence, we use the word brave to describe this quality of fearlessness.

Courage, on the other hand, has an element of fear. If you refer to the dictionary definitions given above, notice that fear is present in the situation and it is something that needs to be managed or overcome.

The difference between bravery and courage is the element of fear.

With that, I’ll leave you with this video from TED to ponder on: